Ampatuan brothers charged over allegedly anomalous infra projects

MANILA, Philippines – Brothers Sajid Islam Ampatuan and Andal Ampatuan Jr., the primary suspects in the 2009 Maguindanao massacre, are facing another criminal case, this time, over the allegedly anomalous multimillion-peso infrastructure projects in Maguindanao province, during Sajid's term as governor.

Filed by the Office of the Ombudsman before the Sandiganbayan was a 483-page separate case information sheet involving charges of violation of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, falsification of public documents under Article 171 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC) and malversation of public funds under Article 217 of the RPC.

Sajid was the primary accused in all the 161 cases. The ombudsman set his bail at P4 million.

Andal Jr., meanwhile, was named as Sajid's co-accused in eight counts of graft. The ombudsman set his bail at P240,000.

Andal Jr. is in detention for multiple murder charges over the Maguindanao Massacre, thus, posting bail now, seems futile.

Ghost projects, fuel supply

The first set of cases stemmed from the alleged falsification of several accomplishment reports to make it appear that eight infrastructure projects worth P23.363 million were accomplished in accordance with the approved plans and specifications “when in truth and in fact, there was no implementation of said project(s).”

The purported projects included repairs of various farm-to-market roads and common roads in the municipalities of Shariff Aguak, Rajah Buayan, Datu Saudi Ampatuan and Datu Piang as well as the repair of the municipal hall in Shariff Aguak.

In connection with the supposed implementation of the repair work, the ombudsman said a total of P22.367 million in supply contracts for fuel and lubricants were awarded by the provincial government to a Shariff Aguak Petron Station owned by Andal Jr., allegedly without holding the required public bidding.

The ombudsman said that aside from the lack of bidding, the transactions were also covered by undated purchase orders and unnumbered disbursement vouchers.

Fake suppliers

Meanwhile, the second set of cases stemmed from the alleged anomalous disbursements of P72.256-million provincial funds for the supposed payments of construction and lumber materials purchased from four suppliers.

Sajid and the other respondents allegedly declared that the materials were purchased for the repair of various school buildings in the province.

The ombudsman, however, said that “no such purchases were made” and the purported suppliers were “fictitious and/or non-existent”. The ombudsman said the respondents instead “misappropriated the funds into themselves”.

The ombudsman said Sajid and the other then provincial officials conspired in falsifying 137 disbursement vouchers and other supporting documents to make it appear that the materials were purchased and delivered to the provincial government.

Named as Sajid's co-accused in all the 161 cases was former officer-in-charge provincial engineer Landap Guinaid.

The ombudsman, however, has yet to clarify, why Guinaid was still charge despite his death in July 2016 in an ambush at the provincial capitol in Shariff Aguak.

Meanwhile, former provincial administrator Norie Unas was named as Sajid's co-accused in 145 of the cases.

Unas was the star witness in the electoral sabotage case against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in connection with the 2007 presidential elections. Arroyo is now representative for the 2nd District of Pampanga.

Other former provincial officials named as Sajid's co-accused in some of the cases were:

accountant John Estelito Dollosa Jr.
treasurer Osmena Bandila
Bids and Awards Committee chairman Kasan Macapendeg
BAC member and provincial engineer Ali K. Abpi Al Haj
project engineers Yahiya Kandong
Pendi Abpet
Omar Camsa
Anthony Kasan
Akmad Salim
Jaypee Piang

'Mere allegations'

The anomalies were allegedly committed from February to September 2009, or a few months before the massacre of 58 people, including 32 journalists, in Maguindanao on November 23, 2009.

The massacre was allegedly perpetrated by the Ampatuan clan led by its patriarch, former Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr.

Ampatuan Sr. died in July 2015 while under hospital arrest due to liver cancer.

Sajid was granted bail by the Quezon City Regional Trial Court in March 2015 due to supposed insufficiency of evidence of the prosecution.

Andal Jr. and his bothers Zaldy and Anwar remain detained at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig.

In a text message to reporters, Ampatuans' lawyer Gregorio Marquez said they have yet to read the voluminous charge sheets but maintained that “all those contracts or procurements passed through the regular process of procurement, bidding and audit”.

“The complaints are mere allegations and proving the same would be otherwise and must be proved beyond reasonable doubt,” Marquez said.


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Workers seek salary increase, end of 'endo' in Labor Day protests

MANILA - Thousands of Filipino workers on Monday marched to the streets as they marked Labor Day with protests in different parts of the country.
Labor groups in the metro gathered early morning in Welcome Rotonda in Quezon City, while some marched to España, Mendiola and Quiapo in Manila.

The groups are calling on the government to end contractualization and implement a P750 national minimum wage.
Urban poor group Kadamay whose members are among those who occupied unused government housing in Pandi, Bulacan also joined the protests.
Kadamay members brought an effigy of a vulture to symbolize foreign interventions in the Philippines.
orkers from the business process outsourcing also joined Labor Day protests in Makati.
Michael dela Concepcion of the BPO Employees Industry Network said they are calling on the government to help them in their problems with their employers.
The group said a lot of BPO companies are cutting costs, affecting employees' benefits.
Project-based and seasonal employment are also rampant in the BPO industry, said Dela Concepcion.

Meanwhile, the Associated Labor Union and Kilusang Mayo Uno in Cagayan de Oro also mounted their protest in Plaza Divisoria.
Labor groups have called on the government to implement a P168 increase in minimum national wage for Region 10.


De Lima hopes to join Senate discussions

Even while in detention, Senator Leila de Lima wants to actively participate in the deliberations on important measures and attend other official functions in the Senate even through remote or electronic means.
De Lima made the call a day before Congress resumes sessions on Tuesday after the Lenten recess.
“For more than two months since I was illegally jailed on sham charges, I have refused to allow political persecution and harassment I suffer under the hands of the present administration to prevent me from fulfilling my electoral mandate,” she said in a statement on Monday.

“I have work to do as a senator and I will continue to do so because I owe it to the more than 14 million Filipino people who voted me in office and represent them in the Senate. I hope I can participate in important debates in the Senate,” said the senator.
De Lima, who has been detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame, Quezon City over drug charges, said her legal team was studying legal options for her to be allowed to attend the Senate sessions.
She said she hoped to join her colleagues in deliberating on important measures, such as the proposed revival of the death penalty, lowering the criminal age responsibility, and the postponement of barangay elections, among others.
Even after her arrest and detention in February this year, the senator continued to file bills and resolutions. She also remains the chair of the Senate electoral reforms and people’s participation committee.
“I have authored and sponsored important measures I promised the Filipino electorate to shepherd in the Senate. I have an electoral mandate to fulfill and it is my right to attend and participate in the proceedings in the Senate,” De Lima said.
“Apart from my rights as a duly-elected senator, I have to invoke my rights as a political prisoner as provided and protected under Philippine laws and jurisprudence as well as the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights,” she said.
She is facing charges for criminal offenses.
The former Justice Secretary cited some cases when detained senators here and abroad were permitted to attend to their legislative duties, including participation in Senate proceedings, pending the resolution of the charges levelled against them.

In the 1950s, she said, former Sen. Justiniano Montano was charged with the non-bailable offense of multiple murders but was allowed to post bail to perform his senatorial duties.
De Lima also pointed out that in 2008, the Senate under the leadership of then Senate President Aquilino Pimentel allowed then detained Senator Antonio Trillanes IV to participate in Senate proceedings through teleconferencing. CBB/rga

By: Maila Ager - Reporter /


Noninterference policy: Duterte tells West to stop meddling



President Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday stressed the importance of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ (Asean) time-honored tradition of noninterference in each other’s internal affairs to foster fruitful relations, calling on the regional bloc to value the supremacy of law and the peaceful resolution of disputes.

He also urged the country’s neighbors to be more forthright in pushing for the region’s interests on the international stage, as the Asean held its 30th summit and marked its 50th year.

Mr. Duterte, who has often bristled at comments and concerns from international groups and other countries about his bloody drug war, asked his regional neighbors to work together to fight the narcotics scourge and bring about a drug-free Asean.

But in an oblique swipe at Western governments which have lashed out at his tough anticrime policy, Mr. Duterte asked them not to meddle in the affairs of countries in the region even as his speech was couched in a formal, diplomatic tone.

He said ties could become stronger and more productive “if we learn to respect each other’s independence and treat each other as sovereign equals,” Mr. Duterte said. “Relations bear fruit when they are based on mutual respect and benefit.”

Mr. Duterte also cited the need for the 10-nation bloc to address security issues, including terrorism and piracy, but made no mention of touchy South China Sea territorial rifts, which China did not want to be highlighted in the daylong talks.

The long-simmering disputes, along with alarm over North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and intensifying standoff with the United States, have taken attention away from the more benign topics of regional economic integration.

The summit is the first major international event Mr. Duterte has hosted since taking office 10 months ago.


Mr. Duterte again went back to his favorite topic, and warned that the drug problem threatens the gains of community-building and destroys lives, especially of the youth, he said.

“The illegal drug trade apparatus is massive. But it is not impregnable. With political will and cooperation, it can be dismantled, it can be destroyed before it destroys our societies,” he said.

In opening the summit, Mr. Duterte noted that the regional bloc was founded on the concepts of unity, solidarity and cooperation.

“The cornerstones form part of time-honored principles of international law: Mutual respect for the independence, sovereignty, equality, territorial integrity, and national identity of all nations and noninterference in the internal affairs of one another,” he added.

Asean’s relationship with its dialogue partners, which includes the United States and the European Union, could be stronger if they respected each other’s independence and treated each other as equals, he said.

“Our engagement with dialogue partners allowed us to set the table for meaningful discussions on maintaining peace and stability, the pursuit of development goals, the peaceful resolution of disputes, and the promotion of our peoples’ welfare,” he said.

“Let me say again, relations bear fruit when they are based on mutual respect and benefit. Dialogue relations can be made more productive and constructive if the valued principle of noninterference in the internal affairs of Asean member-states is observed,” he added.

Law should reign supreme

Mr. Duterte also said the law must reign supreme in the region and disputes must be resolved peacefully. He did not directly mention conflicting claims of China, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan over the South China Sea.

“Relations also remain solid if all stakeholders learn to respect and value the peaceful resolution of disputes. In an era where there can be much uncertainty, we must faithfully adhere to the supremacy of the law and rely on the primacy of rules as responsible members of the international community,” he said.

He made the call even after earlier nixing a proposal to bring up during the summit the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration that had invalidated Beijing’s claim to nearly the whole of the South China Sea. The ruling, he had said, was a nonissue in the Asean and was just between China and the Philippines.

Security issues

He said yesterday that both traditional and nontraditional security issues hinder efforts to promote peace, stability,security and prosperity in our the region.

He also sought continued vigilance to address security threats, including piracy, armed robbery, terrorism and violent extremism.

“Eternal vigilance is the price that we must pay to keep our citizens safe. We can only achieve this through advancing cooperation at the bilateral, regional and multilateral levels,” he said.

The Philippines’ priorities as it chairs the Asean this year include promoting the bloc as a model for regionalism and as a global player.

It must be more forceful in pushing for its interests, Mr. Duterte said.

“History will judge us on how we are able to help our people and our region become even better and stronger based on the values and heritage we hold dear. In this milestone year, the time is ripe—and indeed it is right—to make our decisions count. It is time for Asean to finally assert, with conviction, its position in the international arena,” he said.

Under the Philippine chairmanship, the Asean will continue to work toward becoming a “proactive, relevant and transformative” bloc, he said.

The other priorities of the group this year are building a people-oriented and people-centered Asean, maintaining a peaceful and stable region, cooperating in maritime security, advancing inclusive and innovative-led growth, and promoting the region’s resiliency.

Mr. Duterte said citizens of Asean members have the same aspirations, which is that their rights and welfare as a people are protected and promoted. They also want a stable source of livelihood, shelter, quality education, affordable healthcare, a peaceful and stable government and a dynamic economy.

The Asean must do all it can to provide these for them, he said.

Mr. Duterte kicked off the opening of the Asean summit after welcoming the bloc’s leaders and spouses at the Philippine International Convention Center.

Among the guests at the event were former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, former first lady and Ilocos Norte Rep. Imelda Marcos, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, United States Ambassador Sung Kim and Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua.

Following a cultural presentation, Mr. Duterte posed for the traditional family photo with the Asean leaders. —



Exhausted Duterte jokes: No more 'summit summit'

MANILA – Toward the end of perhaps one of his busiest days as head of state, President Rodrigo Duterte plodded up the steps to the stage, wiped his nose with the back of his hand, scratched his nape, stood on the rostrum and declared: no more summits.
The Philippine president faced the press Saturday night in a briefing to conclude the 30th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit, appearing exhausted over his debut hosting.
“Anak ka ng… Kung ganito lang ang summit, kanselado na ‘yung sa November (If summits are like this, then let’s just cancel the one in November),” Duterte said in jest, the top of his barong unbuttoned, his sleeves rolled up.
The Philippines is scheduled to again serve as the venue for the ASEAN Summit in November. And 72-year-old Duterte, the oldest to ever be elected Philippine president, is again due to play host.
“’Yung sa Foreign Affairs, Sir, ‘wag ka nang mag-summit summit dito (To the Foreign Affairs [Secretary], do not hold any more summits here),” joked Duterte, referring to acting Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo.
Throughout the day, Duterte had shown restraint of the playful ways he usually exhibits in public, as if keenly aware that he was in the company of other ASEAN leaders.
He stuck to prepared speeches, his words measured, in stark contrast to lengthy impromptu remarks in his public outings.
But after a full day restricted by protocol, Duterte let loose in meeting the press Saturday night, even joking that the media should have been invited to the gala dinner with ASEAN leaders and other dignitaries.
“Sabi nang ‘wag kayong mag-summit-summit kung wala kayong pera (I told you not to host summits if you don’t have a budget),” Duterte said, drawing chuckles from those in the room.
At one point, when an officer approached to remind him it was time for the gala dinner, Duterte said: “They (ASEAN leaders) can start dinner.”
He eventually obliged and excused himself from the media: “I do not want to…[but] somebody would need to eat now.”

But before leaving the stage, Duterte called on the women, saying the ladies would usually ask for photos with him in his press engagements.
“I am not trying to be a show-off, but I’ve noticed that after every conference, a lot of mostly women would want to have a picture with me. Women, come up and we’ll have the pictures,” said the President.
He took a few minutes taking selfies and group photos before heading to his dinner hosting.


Leni to graduates: Take leap of faith when necessary

TANAUAN CITY, Batangas - Vice President Leni Robredo visited Tanauan City on Saturday for the 13th commencement exercises of the First Asia Institute of Technology and Humanities.
In her speech, Robredo shared her experience before, during and after college.
Before she went to college, she said that she was very sure that she wanted to become a lawyer and follow the footsteps of her father who was a judge in their hometown.
But everything changed when she studied at the University of the Philippines (UP), taking up Economics during martial law.
Robredo said, "Before I went to UP, I shied away from all political discussions."
While in college, she said she realized the need to get involved due to the "abuses, plunder and worsening poverty" under the Marcos dictatorship.
"That's when I realized I needed to get involved and fight the oppressive regime," she said.
After the EDSA revolution overthrew the Marcos regime, Robredo said that was when she realized she could not go straight to law school as she had planned.
She said she wanted to "go straight to public service" to help Filipinos get a better life.
Although she was afraid of what his father might tell her, the Vice President said she took the leap of faith.
This is what she also asked from the new graduates: to take the leap of faith when necessary - but always remember that when facing such a phase of life, ask if it's right thing to do.
"Always ask yourself, 'Am I doing the right thing?' Ask yourself, 'How will my decision affect others?" she said.

Fay Virrey, ABS-CBN News


Labor group says Duterte breaking Labor Day tradition, promises

A labor group on Saturday expressed dismay at President Rodrigo Duterte for "breaking tradition" and his supposed failure to fulfill his promises ahead of the celebration of Labor Day on Monday.
"Breaking tradition, President Duterte will celebrate this year's Labor Day at a public park in Davao City instead of Malacañan Palace where labor leaders used to be treated to a breakfast, a dialogue or a gift-giving ceremony," Lakas Manggawa Labor Center (LMLC) vice chairman Dave Diwa said in a forum held in Quezon City.
In an invitation letter shared by Diwa to GMA News Online, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) invited LMLC members to the Labor Day assembly with the Duterte on May 1 at the People's Park in Davao City.
Diwa said that almost 50 labor group leaders from Metro Manila were invited by DOLE to attend the Labor Day event in Davao City.
Instead of flying to Davao City, Diwa said groups will hold protests and join Labor Day events in Metro Manila on Monday.
"NAGKAISA, a broad coalition of some 47 labor federations will march from Welcome Rotunda to Mendiola in fron tof Malacañang. In the afternoon, the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) will assemble at the Liwasang Bonifacio and by four o'clock will also march to Mendiola in Malacanan," he said.
"TUCP-ITUC (Trade Union Congress of the Philippines - International Trade Union Confederation) will join the government's "job fairs" in Quezon City. Other labor groups will celebrate Labor Day by conducting indoor memebership meetings and assemblies," he added.
Financial package
Diwa said that Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III had said that Duterte will unveil a "surprise financial package" during the Davao City event.
However, Diwa said that workers "cannot be appeased by dole outs."
"Barely 10 months in the office, we do not expect Duterte to grant many of the things denied to us over the years. But we expect him at least, to fulfil the promises he has made so far,"' he added.
Diwa also raised his concern over the increase in the contribution rate for Social Security System (SSS) members.
"President Duterte promised to give P2,000 additional pension to our workers who have retired from work in the private sector. He gave P1,000 but raised the contribution of SSS members from 11 percent to 16 percent in five years," he said.
Duterte in January approved a hike of P1,000 for the pension of some two million retired SSS members. Another P1,000 pension hike increase will be implemented in 2022.
The pension hike, however, comes with an increase of 1.5 percent in premiums of active members by May, which will increase the contribution rate from 11 percent to 12.5 percent to be shared by employer and employee.
SSS Chairman Amado Valdez said that the contribution rate could be increased annually until it reaches the target of 17 percent from the current rate over six years.
No real 'endo'
Diwa, meanwhile, said that DOLE's Department Order 174 was a "joke."
"He (Duterte) promised to cut by half the number of contractual employees by 2016. This is a joke. He promised to end contractualization this year, 2017, but the government issued Department Order No. 174 that further legitimizes contracting and sub-contracting of labor," Diwa said.
The DOLE order prohibits the repeated hiring of employees under an employment contract that falls short of the mandated six months to qualify for regularization.
"President Duterte has made his mark for millions of our workers today. He broke tradition; he did not fulfill two promises he made when he ran for office now that he is President," Diwa said.



Duterte calls for respect for independence in debut as Asean host

(Updated, 12:32 p.m.) President Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday called on the Association of Southeast Asian Nation (Asean) leaders to respect each countries’ independence in the region and find their place in the international arena.
Duterte debuted as host of the Association of Southeast Asian Nation (Asean) summit here in Manila, the first test of his diplomacy as host.
He made the statement of independence and mutual respect among the Asean nations amid growing criticisms from the United States and the European Union on his administration’s brutal war on drugs, which reportedly claimed over 7,000 lives. The police, however, have said that only 2,600 deaths of drug pushers and users could be attributed to the intensified narcotics crackdown.
“Let me say again: relations bear fruit when they are based on mutual respect and benefit,” Duterte said.
Duterte also vouched for the non-interference principle of the Asean region, a principle the ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights criticized as an excuse by Asean governments in blocking human rights protections under international law.
READ: Tackle ‘growing human rights crisis’ in the region, Asean urged
Facing mounting outcry from human rights groups hitting his campaign against drugs, Duterte has bristled at criticisms from the West on his brutal narcotics war, even cursing then US President Barack Obama for interfering in the country’s affairs.
“Dialogue relationship shall be made more productive, constructive if the valued principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of the Asean member states is observed,” Duterte said.
READ: Facing backlash on killings, Duterte to find solace in Asean
Duterte said it is time for the Asean region to find its place in the international arena.
“It is time, and the time is right, to finally assert with conviction its position in the international arena,” Duterte said.

Duterte led the Asean leaders at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC), the main venue for the 30th Asean summit in Manila.
The Asean leaders in attendance were Myanmar state counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Thailand Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha, Vietnam President Tran Dai Quang, Laos Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith, Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, Cambodia Prime Minister Hun Sen, Indonesia President Joko Widodo, and Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak.
Duterte also broadly raised the growing concern of disputes in the Asean region which he said must be settled through peaceful means under international rules.
Duterte did not specifically mention the maritime disputes in the South China Sea, where the Philippines and other Asean members Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam have overlapping claims with China.
Duterte has cozied up The Philippines’ relations with China amid a bonanza of loans and investments, even saying that he would not raise during the summit the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling favoring the Philippines’ maritime claims over the West Philippine Sea and invalidating China’s nine-dash line claiming most of the disputed waters.
READ: Duterte: Arbitral ruling not an issue for Asean
The Asean leaders, however, are expected to tackle the crafting of a Code of Conduct to govern the actions of Asean member states and China in the resource-rich waters.
“The region remains solid if all stakeholders learn to respect and value the peaceful resolution of disputes… We must adhere to the supremacy of the law, and the life of the primacy of rules as responsible members of the international community,” Duterte said.
Duterte likewise mentioned the menace in the region of illegal drugs, sharing with fellow Asean leaders his experience at seeing how the scourge of illegal substance destroy Filipinos’ lives, especially the youth.
Duterte won the elections in a campaign to eliminate the drug trade during his administration. While calling for the death of drug addicts, he has denied ordering the killings of drug suspects, saying that those who were killed resisted arrest.
“The scourge of illegal drugs threatens community building. I have seen how illegal drugs have ended the hopes, dreams and future, and even the lives of countless people, especially the youth,” Duterte said.
“The illegal drug trade apparatus is massive.. With political will and cooperation, it can be dismantled, it can be destroyed, before it destroys our society,” Duterte said.
Duterte also cited the need for the Asean to end the threat of terrorism, piracy, armed robbery, and violent extremism which destroy regional growth.
“Equally important, we must not waver to eliminate security threats to regional growth and development,” he added.
Duterte also took the opportunity to thank his Asean counterparts for the help they extended when Supertyphoon Yolanda (International name: Haiyan) flattened towns and cities in the country in 2013.
“Our region is one of the most vulnerable when it comes to natural disasters. Typhoon Haiyan turned some provinces and cities into wastelands. Thousands of lives were lost. Amid the desolation and destruction, I saw the resilience of our people to pick up pieces of their lives and start again,” Duterte said.
“This indomitable spirit of the Filipino people allows us to surpass the challenges that come our way. This is also why we are focused on becoming more prepared. The Philippines will never forget timely assistance from fellow Asean countries during our time of greatest need,” he added.
In his speech during the Asean Leadership Forum in Manila Hotel Friday, Duterte earlier underscored the need for Asean regional integration in the face of cultural differences and amid the threats of terrorism, violent extremism and criminality such as the illegal drug trade.
“We need to cultivate the sense of ownership by putting Asean in their consciousness… Let them feel they are a part of efforts to achieve common aspiration,” Duterte then said.
The Asean leaders will release the chairman’s statement at the end of the summit to sum up the points of consensus on issues.
The Asean leaders are also expected to sign the Declaration on the Role of the Civil Service as A Catalyst for Achieving ASEAN Community Vision 2025.
READ: Asean meet is Duterte’s debut as summit host
The Asean leaders are also expected this afternoon to have an interface with the Asean parliamentarians and lawmakers, as well as the Asean youth.
Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez as chairperson of the Asean Inter-parliamentary Assembly will deliver the draft message of the parliamentarians’ group to the Asean leaders.
The Asean parliamentarians and lawmakers are expected to stress the importance of the Asean work plan against illicit drugs and the declaration of a Code of Conduct on the South China Sea.

National Youth Commission chairperson Aiza Seguerra will deliver the statement during the interface between the Asean leaders and the Asean youth, where she is set to appeal for support from the leaders on issues relating to climate change, youth voluntarism, and Asean awareness.
READ: Aiza Seguerra closes meetings of Asean youth representatives
The Philippines is host of the 30th Asean Summit from April 26 to 29 in Manila. Duterte would chair first of two annual meetings of Asean leaders. The next meeting is in November.
Duterte will also host a gala dinner at Sofitel Manila for the Asean leaders, who will be garbed with Rajo Laurel barongs showcasing the fabric of Mindanao ethnolinguistic tribes. Meanwhile, the spouses will wear gowns designed by Rhett Eala.
The Asean leaders will also be serenaded after dinner with ethnic musical numbers and cultural dances.
Under the theme “Partnering for Change, Engaging the World,” the Asean leaders will discuss progress in the implementation of the Asean Vision 2025, as well as Asean’s external relations and its future direction. IDL

By: Marc Jayson Cayabyab - Reporter /


Death penalty bill already 'dead' in Senate – Drilon

MANILA, Philippines – The death penalty bill is already "dead" in the Senate.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said on Wednesday, April 26, that at least 13 senators are expected to vote against the measure seeking to restore capital punishment in the country.
“By my own estimate, there are at least 13 senators who will block the passage of the death penalty bill, including the 6-member minority group and 7 from the majority block,” Drilon said in a statement on Wednesday.
“It’s dead and the chances of resurrecting it before we even bring it to a vote are very slim, if not zero, at least in this [17th] Congress,” Drilon added.
Aside from Drilon, the Senate minority bloc includes Liberal Party Senators Drilon, Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, Francis Pangilinan, and Leila de Lima; and Senators Antonio Trillanes IV and Risa Hontiveros.
“Personally, I shudder at the thought that an imperfect justice system is confronted with a situation where the death penalty would have to be imposed. You cannot correct once it’s imposed,” Drilon, a former justice secretary, said in a news conference.
Drilon said that even the lone LP in the majority bloc, Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto, is also against the controversial measure. Senators Francis Escudero, Richard Gordon, and Juan Miguel Zubiri earlier expressed opposition on the bill.
“We are ready to lead the fight against the death penalty bill. We believe that a death penalty law was not and will never be an effective deterrence against crime,” he said.
“It will be detrimental to the poor who will be made victims of this cruel and inhumane punishment due to the inefficiencies of our judicial system,” he added. (READ: Why the death penalty is unnecessary, anti-poor, error-prone)
Drilon said there are only 5 senators who have so far openly expressed support for the bill – Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III and Senators Manny Pacquiao, Joseph Victor Ejercito, Sherwin Gatchalian, and Cynthia Villar.
“It does not appear to have the votes it needed. It is the end of the road for the proposal,” Drilon said.
But Sotto earlier said there would be more senators voting for the measure if the version passed is limited to high-level drug trafficking.
The death penalty bill is one of the priority measures of President Rodrigo Duterte. The House of Representatives earlier passed the bill on third and final reading in March. –


Will Ombudsman's Davao Death Squad probe affect ICC complaint?

MANILA, Philippines – The ongoing investigation of the Office of the Ombudsman on the claims of self-confessed "Davao Death Squad" (DDS) hitman Edgar Matobato may render moot a similar complaint filed before the International Criminal Court (ICC).
This was the assessment of Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales on Tuesday, April 25, during a news conference.
"The ICC can only complement Philippine laws, so if they believe that the Philippine government is doing something to control or act upon the complaint, or the subject of the complaint of Matobato, then probably the ICC will not move because it's supposed to complement only," Morales said.
Morales was asked whether a report, or findings coming from them, can be taken as proof of the Philippines' "willingness to investigate" the complaint, and be taken as reason to take the ICC out of the picture.
By principle, the ICC will act only when it believes that the country of origin has ignored a complaint and that chances of an investigation, more so a prosecution, are nil.
In a Rappler IQ piece by law professor Perfecto Caparas, he said that the "ICC can step in, pursuant to the principle of complementarity, if the Philippines is shown to be unwilling or unable to investigate, prosecute, and try in good faith."
Morales, however, clarified that it's still the discretion of the ICC whether or not to proceed with the complaint lodged before it.
"It's up to the ICC to determine if the requirements for filing a case to the ICC have been met. It's up to them to determine," Morales said.
Matobato's complaint, filed in December before the Ombudsman, seeks to charge President Rodrigo Duterte with murder, kidnapping, torture, and crimes against humanity in connection with alleged summary killings in Davao City when Duterte was still mayor.
"Matobato, I think, has been summoned and he had showed up in the office. So his testimony has been recorded. It's still pending investigation," Morales said.
It was unclear when Matobato went to the Ombudsman. He was ordered arrested last March by a Manila court and consequently posted a P200,000-bail.
On Monday, April 24, Matobato's laywer Jude Sabio submitted his complaint to ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda.
Before Matobato's complaint in December, the Ombudsman had once terminated investigations into the alleged existence of the DDS.
In 2012, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) issued a resolution which found "probable cause" and referred to the Ombudsman the investigation into Duterte's possible liabilities.
Rappler's investigative team obtained a letter sent to the CHR by the Ombudsman dated January 15, 2016, which said the investigation had been "closed and terminated."
Overall Deputy Ombudsman Melchor Arthur Carandang said then that "no evidence was gathered to support the killings attributed or attributable to the DDS." –

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